Table of Contents
The Catholic Church rose to power during the 6th century, but the stewardship is thought to last all through the 9th century. Ferocious invasion that brought down Roman Empire expanded throughout the entire Europe. There were specific situations that helped the Catholic Church to gain its great power. In addition, most of western European civilizations owe their existence to the traditional ascent of the church. The church is also credited for preserving the literature, conduit of learning as well as agriculture, which would otherwise not have survived the middle ages.
There are more than one billion Catholics in a world today who are subject to the authority of the Pope. During the 4th century, the authority of the Bishop in Rome continued to grow. The Pope in Damascus as well as all those who followed him, such as Innocent 1, Boniface 1, and Zosimus, had made the church more powerful with the establishment of papal expressions. Immediately after the fall of the Papacy of Innocent 1, the Pope office filled the vacuum of the leadership. This paper describes the rise of papacy and how the papacy in Rome became the center of power. Furthermore, the paper highlights the factors that contributed to the papal dominance in the western Europe until reformation and discusses eventual positive and negative implications.
Various factors, some of which are circumstantial while others are coincidental, contributed to the growth of the power of church in the 6th century. Popularity of the church could actually be attributed to its earlier relationship with the apostles. The office of the Pope is believed to be a direct descendant of the apostle Peter, who had previously been appointed by Christ as the steward of the church. Self-proclaimed dominance of the church stemmed from Damascus 1, who is believed to have lived between 366 and 384. He referred to himself as the pontifexmaximus, which was a name that was once held by the emperor of the Rome. This has become the origin of the present-day title of the Pope. This is said to have raised the authority of the church among Christians. In addition, the title “Vicar of Christ” was also the first title held by the Pope. It further increased perceived authority of the church by enlisting the Pope as a representative of Christ on Earth.
All these proclamations had their roots in caesaropapism, which literally treated the emperor as a pope. Earlier in the century, the church found itself in unparalleled point. This was because Constantine had essentially seized his power over church affairs and doctrines. These actions distorted the distinction between the state and the head of the state. Other effects included elevation of the political power of the church over that of state. Consequently, this made Roman society conscious of church dominance in Roman land.
The church and Christianity had gained great popularity in Roman Empire due to the fact that Christianity has been an official religion in the Roman Empire. Furthermore, declaration of the Bishop of Constantinople as being the second in authority on ecclesiastical matters by the council of Chalcedon necessitated expansion of the church in the Roman Empire. This is because the Bishop was the sole authority in the west, where major issues emerged.
The end of ferocious invasion, success of Christianity, immense popularity of the church, and inadequacy of the Roman emperor in defending his fonts necessitated the strengthening of the power of the Bishop in Roman Empire. In addition, Roman generals neglected the role of guarding their boundaries. This situation generated a defensive gap, which eventually led to the collapse of the Roman Empire. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the authority was taken over by the church, whose leaders, such as Pope Gregory, strengthened church organization and influence. Pope Gregory has been credited for improving the standard of papacy. Pope Gregory believed that the purpose of papacy was to improve lives of the poor. Therefore, he proposed the establishment of the papal title “The servant of Christ”. Furthermore, he is actually credited for the introduction of the church liturgy as well as he is perceived as a great church theologian.
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Factors that Contributed to Papal Dominance of Western Europe until Reformation
The entire western Europe was suffering from invasion and massive vandalism, while the Roman church remained independent. Furthermore, the empire was also subjected to division due to leadership squabbles amongst emperor’s predecessors. Regardless of these occurrences, the power and the authority of the church in the Roman Empire remained intact, stable, and undivided. In addition, during invasion Pope Leo II was the only defense against Huns because Roman leadership was weak at that moment.
During the invasion, the church strived to change the monarch so that people could eventually follow the church. The dominance was also necessitated by earlier missions that were organized by the church. Therefore, some of the barbarians, who were leading the invasion were already Christians. In addition, a large part of the western Europe was composed of Catholic Christianity. The church ended up creating alliances with barbarians since it could not seek help from eastern Europe. The creation of this alliance helped the church assert papal dominance in the region.
Merovingian dynasty ruled the Empire from 6th to 7th centuries. Since they were constantly in war as they traded power and land, they eventually became weak. The degeneration of the Merovingian dynasty was affecting the church. On the other hand, Carolingians being refined barbarians, were actually benefiting from the decline of the Merovingian dynasty. When the church was given an opportunity to approve the transition of power from the Merovingian dynasty to Carolingians, it essentially used that opportunity to their advantage. This is because the church always depended upon Carolingians for protection against invasion from the eastern empires. This made it possible for the church to assert its dominance in Rome.
Another contributing factor was the establishment of the New Imperial Europe on the fundaments of Catholicism by Charles the Great. Since Charles the Great himself was illiterate, he relied upon the bishops to create schools around church cathedrals. Charles’ mandate on education led to what is famously known as Carolingian Renaissance. It was a period during which intellectual regression that was caused by the barbarian invasion started to weaken and eventually decline. After the death of Charles the Great, the church continued with its mandate of spreading learning in Europe. The church used this learning model as an instrument for promoting its values and hence its dominance in Rome.
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Positive and Negative Ramifications of Papal Dominance
During this century, the barbarian government was largely influenced by the church, which established its dominance through these regimes. The church ensured that faith would completely transform their way of life and the government. Then Charles the Great encouraged development of education under the influence of Catholic Church. Eventually, he managed to transform barbarians into builders of civilization. Therefore, it is evident that western Europe owes its middle age survival to the Catholic Church.
Another positive achievement was introduction of lower case letters and spaces between words as well as other principles that simplified reading and writing. Charles the Great is usually credited for development of literacy civilization in the entire Western Europe.
Another consequence that resulted from the rise of papacy was the effect of monastic ideal. Monastery actually became popular during the 6th century. It is within this period that nuns were seen for the first time in history. Nuns were virgins, who essentially hallowed and dedicated themselves to live life of sacrifice and prayers. Monastery became popular in the western Europe as a result of the rise of papacy in the region. Furthermore, the rise of papacy also acted as a catalyst for the development of education. For instance, no literature material would exist if not for the monks, who were tirelessly replicating literary works of the time hence making them availability today. The monks also contributed to the rise and development of the practical art that included deforestation and agriculture as well as swamp drainage.
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It is evident that existence of the Western civilization can to large extent be attributed to various events connected with the Roman Church and to the barbarian rule. The rise of papacy has largely been caused by the inability of the Roman Empire to defend its own frontiers as well as by rapid spread of the Catholic Christianity in the entire western region earlier before the invasion. It is also clear that as western Europe was being changed by the barbarians, the church, on the other hand, remodeled the barbarians, thus expanding its dominance in the Roman Empire. The amalgamation between the Church and barbarians ensured that western civilization was preserved, reinstructed, and strengthened.